Heads & Tales: Fish Tails (and a Recipe)!
Today's installment of my New York City recap involves making more new friends from the blogging community, celebrating seafood and living like a New Yorker.
Having been given the luxury of having one week to live in New York City gave me a new perspective on this great city.
New Yorkers are kind. Throughout the week I did get lost on the subway, disoriented on many occasions at an intersection and often "rescued" by an all too eager New Yorker willing to help me, one of thousands of tourists in the city that never sleeps.
Many New Yorkers use the transit system. Unlike other North American cities (like Toronto) where a transit system is in place, many New Yorkers actually prefer using the vast subway and train system. It's extensive, runs 24/7 and it's safe.
New York City has the best of everything, the worst of everything. New York has ten-times better everything but...ten-times "the worst" of everything - all is multiplied. It's a big city, with flaws and like any other destination, you need to explore, do some homework (buy & read a travel book) and with some good travel instincts, you'll find what you're looking for.
As a fish and seafood lover, I knew that I'd be spoiled with some of the freshest seafood in the world. When Marc of No Recipes extended an invite to dine together at a sushi restaurant in New York, I couldn't refuse.
His choice, Sushi Azabu...located in TriBeCa near the Hudson River. I got to the place a little early, ordered a Japanese beer and leafed through the new cook books which I had just bought from The Strand.
New Yorkers are very familiar with The Strand but for those of you contemplating a trip to NYC and looking for rare books for fabulous price, The Strand is a must. The place is teeming with book lovers, helpful staff and shelves upon shelves (18 miles) of mostly used (some new) books touching upon every genre possible.
I was kindly assisted to the cooking section, found some Greek cookbooks, snapped them up and toted them in my backpack for the day.
Marc and his ever-smiling wife Liz arrived punctually and ventured to the basement of the establishment (upstairs served steak and Italian), downstairs was sushi. I'm not a fan of basement haunts but the service staff here are warm, courteous and the decor sleek (Japanese designed - right down to the bathroom amenities).
Liz, Marc and I warmed up to each other quickly and being a Greek dude who enjoys sushi, I allowed Marc to take the lead on ordering.
First up was the beverage of a choice...a sesame Shochu which is a brew of premium wheat, rice and sesame. This drink was served on ice, reminded me of vodka with a definite sesame aroma and taste. We ordered one bottle and had no difficulty in finishing this fabulous Japanese drink.
Marc's choices for the dinner were of the highest quality and every morsel went unwasted. From the Japanese seaweed salad to some seared, rare Wagyu beef and on to the red snapper carpaccio and the Chef's Choice of the market-fresh sushi offering of the day...the meal was dreamy.
Liz, Marc and I got acquainted with each other's lives, talked food (what else) and relished every single course of this masterpiece sushi dinner. A trip to Japan just got bumped up on my "to do" list.
Let's rewind a bit. Not that far back - just a little earlier in the day. STAY right there...mid-afternoon and lunch.
What was to be the largest food-blogger gathering of the week for me would take place at Lupa, a Mario Battali and Joseph Bastianich osteria.
Coordinating the lunch was Stacey of Stacey Snacks and Giff of The Constables Larder. Stacey made the reservation (based on her contented patronage of Lupa) and Giff liaised with myself and the others to confirm all in attendance.
You've already met Stephane of Chefs Gone Wild and Mlle. Claire of Colloquial Cookin' but I'd like to also introduce a new acquaintance and friend, Rachel of the Essential Rhubarb Pie.
I was afraid that Rachel was going to arrive late (something about work) but it appears she and Stacey got real comfy with each other, at the bar and in the midst of an afternoon glass of wine...how civilized!
We met for a late lunch and although most were hungry, we kept on getting distracted by the usual "getting to know you chats" that ranged from life in New York, rude behaviour (or not) of Parisians, a little politics, more New York and a little about each of us.
With lunch hours dwindling...Stacey suggested we order some sampling platters: one seafood antipasti and other a veggie/salad antipasti.
Each of us ordered their own main and we washed our food down with a northern Italian white and a Sicilian red.
Being a Greek and enjoying the food concept of appetizers and mezedes, I would have been most comfortable just ordering and ordering starters, sampling, chatting, drinking and sampling again...THAT is a good dinner and company for me!
Lupa's service is very good. The staff attentive, they know the menu and the wines and they were kind and patient with our tardy ordering from the menu.
The best approach to ordering from Lupa's menu is order some antipasti, enjoy your wine - order your main and don't forget it's ala carte here...grab a side to complete your entree.
I didn't order dessert but I had a sample of Claire's hazelnut tartuffo (huge) and if any of the other desserts are like this one...Lupa delivers from start to finish.
I'd like to leave you all with a dish that reminded me of that day in New York City, filled with memories of some the freshest seafood I've ever had in North America, the new friendships made and the memories...forever!
Here's a simple Italian seafood dish, works great with bream, sea bass or any other white-fleshed fish fillet. I found some wonderful Grouper fillets at my local market and in keeping with Lupa's unpretentious Osteria cooking approach without sacrificing quality or breaking the bank, I present a Walnut Gremolata Grouper...enjoy!
Walnut Gremolata Grouper
4 Grouper fillets
fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. of lemon rind, thinly sliced 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. coarse bread crumb
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all the Gremolata ingredients in a bowl and cover - set aside.
- Rub both sides of the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sweet paprika.
- Add some olive oil into a non-stick pan over medium high heat and place the fillets (skin-side down first) for 3-4 minutes per side or until crisp and brown.
- Plate the fish immediately with a mound of Gremolata on top and serve with a garlic mash or in my case...orzo with mushrooms and zucchini.